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Osmo Vänskä /// Music Director

Recent Articles: Mandy Meisner

Music for All

Guest blogger Mandy Meisner learns how the Minnesota Orchestra’s Sensory-Friendly Concerts are making Orchestra Hall inclusive for all audiences. Sensory-Friendly Concerts at Orchestra Hall are designed for patrons of all ages and abilities, including individuals on the autism spectrum and those with sensory sensitivities. The 2018-19 series includes five concerts featuring the full Orchestra and three featuring solo instruments or small ensembles, beginning with a performance by cellist Katja Linfield in the Target Atrium on November 20.

I was taught we have five senses. You can imagine my surprise when I learned today’s scientists have identified nine: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, thermoception (heat and cold), nociception (pain), equilibrioception (balance and gravity) and proprioception (body awareness). Our bodies are a constant symphony of input and output of the information around us in a much more expansive way than I thought.

A symphony orchestra performance may look, sound and feel very different to each of us. With this in mind, in recent years the Minnesota Orchestra has introduced a new series of Sensory-Friendly Concerts designed for everyone to enjoy, no matter how we process those nine senses. The idea originated five years ago with a handful of Orchestra musicians who wanted to create a welcoming environment for young people on the autism spectrum. They gave small-scale performances in the community, and eventually in Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium, that were well-received. Now the Orchestra has expanded the Sensory-Friendly series to include three small ensemble performances and three full-Orchestra Family Concerts each season.

starting small

Back in February, this is how I experienced my first small-ensemble Sensory-Friendly concert:

We gather in the glass box of the Target Atrium, escaping from the winter cold, a smattering of different ages and ilk. Without the formal protocol of a standard classical concert, the energy spills out with heartfelt vocal responses, jitters and tapping. Minnesota Orchestra musicians Pamela Arnstein and Kathryn Nettleman talk in easy conversation about the works being performed, the instruments and bits of their lives. Even before the music starts, we feel as we are all friends.

And when it does start, the room is transformed. The music itself is reflected in the responses of the audience. Universally, we are calm. We are moved by the story the music tells, quiet and soothing in parts, humming and chortling in rhythmic delight in others.

A young man, looking dapper in a crisp white shirt, black suspenders and bow tie, comes on stage to perform on his cello. He is the first cellist with Down syndrome to play in the varsity orchestra at school. His sound is clean, confident and straightforward. He beams with joy.

There is a second youth performer. He sits stiffly at the piano, his face unemotional. But his music is filled with great expression and sweetness, and that is all we need to know him.

adding the full Orchestra

Six months later, I attend the first full-Orchestra Sensory-Friendly Family Concert, when the Hall is flooded with families. Whole families, many for the first time, are experiencing a Minnesota Orchestra concert, together. No one is left behind. In the lobby, a large table holds gobs of colorful clay that are shaped into trees and animals in the small, dimpled hands of children. There are stations throughout Orchestra Hall, creative welcoming islands.

Before the concert begins there is quiet chatter, the flutter of arms and swishing of pigtails. The host, Lyndie Walker of Toneworks Music Therapy Services, speaks in a clear, slow cadence about courage and triumph, bravery and perseverance.

No one is required to sit still, be silent, or clap only in the “right” places. Instead, everyone is welcome to express themselves and experience the music in their own way. We are human prisms; the music goes through and we become a spectrum of indescribable colors.

The music flows over us, each piece offering a different sensation: Aaron Copland pounds through my chest; Harry Potter is whimsical, hopeful and adventuresome; West Side Story’s plaintive lines tug somewhere deep. Cellist Nygel Witherspoon enters with his signature cloud of curly hair. His playing is tender and melancholy for one so young. Conductor Akiko Fujimoto finishes the concert with the blazing end of the Firebird.

When the music ends, sounds and motions of delight can be seen and heard throughout the Hall. Next to me, a family of four lingers. A young woman with impossibly thick hair held back in a barrette rocks back and forth, glowing. Her name is Carly. She is 20 years old, and this is the first time she has listened to the Minnesota Orchestra. She had been receiving music therapy for the last 15 years and was visibly enjoying the performance, vocalizing enthusiastically in parts, shaking in others.

I spoke with Carly’s mother, Lisa, who shared with me her appreciation in having this opportunity to bring not only Carly, but their whole family. This was in fact the first time they could all come together. Later, I tell her the Minnesota Orchestra will offer a Sensory-Friendly environment for all the family concerts in the 2018-2019 season.

News that feels good for all of our nine senses.

Photos by Greg Helgeson and Scott Streble.

The Minnesota Orchestra’s 2018-19 Sensory-Friendly Family Concerts include Carnival of the Animals; The Tin Forest; Joyful Rhythms, Joyful Sounds; and a three-concert solo and small ensemble series in Orchestra Hall’s Target Atrium.


Guest blogger Mandy Meisner waited more than 20 years to hear her teenage idol in person.

As an arts high school student in the 1990s, I had some unconventional idols. Others my age may have been swooning over Kirk Cameron and New Kids on the Block, but my music classmates and I had pictures of Joshua Bell on our walls. My best friend Katie and I would sigh over him in our dorm rooms, listen to him on the radio and obsess over his documentaries. We were his biggest fans.

It seems hard to believe that despite my devotion, it took another 25 years for me to finally hear him perform live last month with the Minnesota Orchestra. Here’s how the evening played out.

I arrive at Orchestra Hall for a rare Monday night concert, excited beyond belief. The energy is palpable, even in the lobby. After taking my seat, I think about Katie and the countless hours she spent practicing with her long fingers dancing over her viola, making etudes sound like a private concert.  I know how much she would have loved listening to tonight’s concert. I recognize a bit of our youthful exuberance in the young woman sitting next to me in the auditorium, fresh faced in glasses and a teal dress. Her name is Hannah, and this will be the first time she’s heard Joshua play. We bond over the exciting opportunity, and I later learn that she is a violin student of Minnesota Orchestra musician Aaron Janse who will be attending Vanderbilt in next fall on a full scholarship studying Political Science.

Mandy (center) with Hannah Bruns (right), a violin student of Minnesota Orchestra musician Aaron Janse, with Hannah’s mother Victoria at left.

When Joshua walks on stage to play Wieniawski’s Concerto No. 2, he exudes an approachability and pleasantness. There remains an element of boyishness to him. Perhaps it’s his hair that still sways across his forehead. He closes his eyes in preparation and when he begins it is everything I hope my idol will produce. It is perfection. Starting out with an incredibly lush sound that arcs throughout the Hall, his music clings to us in gooey phrases.

His technique is brilliant, nimble and sparkling. There is a wisdom and heaviness to his playing. His body sways to the music naturally, unsensational but heartfelt. During his rests, he is still with closed eyes and disheveled hair. There are long stretches of time that I forget to take notes because I am so enthralled in the moment.

Joshua’s second piece, Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen, starts out painfully beautiful, evolving into energetic motion. It is so full of passion, we think we will explode from the sheer emotion. His precision is remarkable and ends in a glorious statement. When he is done, we are all on our feet, exclaiming our love and appreciation.

There is more to the concert, but I take it in as a dreamy aftermath. I am completely spent from Joshua Bell and my teenage memories.

Days later, I see a comment on Facebook from my friend Katie, who now lives in New York. She asks how the concert was. I tell her how much I wish we could have listened to him together. And then I remember, it was live-streamed by the Orchestra!

I think I’ll send her the link.


Remember the Titans

by guest blogger Mandy Meisner

As the first tease of spring arrived with much anticipation, a friend and I spent the evening of March 16 at Orchestra Hall for a night of Weill and Mahler.

Project Opera greets us in the lobby, where a young soprano sings alone like a nightingale, perched before a flock of fellow songbirds. We gather in admiration, our hats and coats still on. It is a perfect prelude before we make our way to our seats.

Project Opera performing in the Orchestra Hall lobby.

The wind orchestra for Kurt Weill’s Violin Concerto looks small on stage, bringing a sense of intimacy. Erin Keefe walks out gracefully, her deep aqua coat flutters behind, complementing her auburn hair. The opening phrases weave intricately in and out from one another as the violin starts out very rhythmically and with determination. The music picks up speed, feeling frantic and urgent while the horn calls in ominous foreboding. The dark chaos gives way to lovely moments of vulnerability and reflection. We are overcome by the passion, adaptability and stamina demonstrated as the piece continues. We can see several hairs from her bow break free; they sway and punctuate as she plays to the interesting and turbulent end.

Concertmaster Erin Keefe at center stage in Weill’s Violin Concerto.

As the musicians enter the stage for Mahler’s Titan Symphony, we know it will be powerful. The second violins and cellos have swapped their usual places. Unexpectedly, there is more than the usual complement of trombones, but there are fewer trumpets. We quickly find out why when the symphony begins, wonderfully lush and mellow, as muted trumpets sound from afar in majestic call—from offstage. The effect is curious. The music feels like a leisurely ride on horseback, with a pastoral backdrop of rolling hills and birdsong. It works up into a climactic wash of sound, only to recede and grow again, we all sigh and hold our breath in wonder and gratitude.

From left to right: Clarinetist Timothy Zavadil, Associate Principal Clarinet David Pharris, Principal Clarinet Gabriel Campos Zamora and Principal Bassoon Fei Xie performing Mahler’s First Symphony.

The second movement starts with much energy, evolving into gooey phrases that stretch and arc before us, ending in joyful strength.

The third movement throbs with the heartbeat of the timpani as somber voices join in. It feels dark and mocking, and somehow familiar, though we don’t know why. It changes to the lilting sway of a dance, dying in near silence.

The final movement is frenzied disarray. It resolves to sweet, long phrases of melancholy, diminishing to mere whispers of sound, only to jump up in abrupt disbelief once again. The far-off, majestic horns call out, reminding us of more peaceful times. But this peaceful memory is not where we land; instead the music builds to an emotionally charged end that leaves our eyes shining.

The symphony speaks to this audience with raw emotion. We go absolutely wild, jumping to our feet, clapping furiously and shouting our adoration as if the musicians were rock stars.

Afterwards, we compose ourselves. We stand in a long line that snakes through the lobby, dreamily holding Mahler Sixth Symphony CDs to be signed by Music Director Osmo Vänskä.

Music Director Osmo Vänskä and Concertmaster Erin Keefe signing CDs for audience members. All photos with this story are by Greg Helgeson.

The anticipation of spring is replaced by the aftermath of incredible beauty.

I'm No Expert

Something funny has happened. People assume I know a lot about music.

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, I’ve been regularly writing about the Minnesota Orchestra for the online version of Showcase, recapping concerts, interviewing musicians and even observing a rehearsal. Understandably, people might think I have expertise in this field—but really, I don’t.

It’s not that I’m completely ignorant. I went to an arts high school as a music student, managed to play flute in the top-level orchestra of Minnesota Youth Symphonies, and studied with some amazing teachers. But I was a bit of a laggard, only getting serious about my studies in my later years of high school. That was a long time ago, and it’s pretty much where my music education ended.

Fast-forward to the present. I’d been blogging for years, covering topics of interest to various communities, but never on a consistent theme. Feeling nostalgic one day, I wrote about my MYS days playing under Manny Laureano, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal trumpet. I pitched it to the Orchestra’s editor and was invited to write more.

Repeatedly writing about a specific subject—particularly an art form and an ensemble I revered—was intimidating, and it was something I had never done before. But I decided to embrace my good luck, get over my nerves and give it my all.

I started telling people about my blogs. About our Orchestra. About our musicians. And then the questions started coming. What did I know about the Orchestra’s history, or the music’s structural elements, or critiques of past performances? I had no idea about these things, no good answers.

So, if I’m not a music expert, then what exactly am I doing? Just this: I write about how the music feels, and I write for the people who, like me, are head over heels in love with music.

My time at Orchestra Hall has connected me with people who can’t read a single note of music or tell you a thing about the composer. (Even though some have been coming for enough decades to remember when the Orchestra played at Northrop at the University of Minnesota.) We come to the Hall and mingle in the lobby, an assorted throng of the casual and the sophisticated, and take our seats in the auditorium.

We may start side by side as strangers, but as we hold our breath together, we become silent comrades as the music washes away our daily trials. We listen to notes that sound first like a thousand butterflies—uncontainable and magnificent in their abundance—then give way to something mysterious, lush and rounded and dark. We experience moments when the music is so sweet and pure and fleeting, we want to weep for its existence.

Sometimes, when I can’t make it to Orchestra Hall, I sit alone in the dark and listen to the Orchestra on Minnesota Public Radio. Without the grandeur of the Hall’s space and my high heels, the broadcast feels like an intimate conversation with an old friend.

These are the things I write about.

I like to think it’s universal and why music exists. To know what beauty is. And now when people ask me about my expertise in music, I finally have a good answer, one I say with heartfelt enthusiasm every time.

I’m not a music expert. I’m a music lover.

Winter Dreaming

Guest blogger Mandy Meisner rings in 2018 at Orchestra Hall.

I can’t remember the last time I went out on New Year’s Eve. Even in my youth, when the allure of all that glitters was strong, being amid a crowd on this holiday never appealed to me. I much prefer to stay at home, puttering in the kitchen and sipping a good red wine. But, as my love for the Minnesota Orchestra has grown this past year, so has my curiosity—and I decided to welcome 2018 in style at Orchestra Hall.     

We hearty Minnesotans didn’t let 30-below windchills keep us away. We come bundled in down coats and wool scarves; underneath we’re bejeweled and well-heeled, modestly and practically attired. The lobby is aglow with a 16-foot Christmas tree, and in the Target Atrium oversized star lanterns drip from the ceiling in white light. From somewhere on the second balcony, bubbles float down in shimmering waves.

Instagram photo by @johnpanning

The Orchestra musicians walk onstage, dotted with bold dashes of fuchsia and teal, burgundy and sequins. Osmo Vänskä gives the downbeat, and Tchaikovsky’s Winter Dreams Symphony starts as light and crisp as the first snowfall. At times the music is as quiet as a whisper, and we lean forward with our breath held to listen. Dancers from Minnesota Dance Theatre garbed in gossamer and velvet dresses flicker across the stage periodically, pale outstretched arms and long lines of leg accenting the music. It ends with the stunning energy of a dying star.

We know Tchaikovsky’s Serenade will be different from the beginning. The strings stand alone, unconducted. They sway and slant to lengthy romantic phrases as the music moves from lush to delicate to fiery, as deep and broad as the Mississippi River. We marvel at the beauty of it.

Inon Barnatan looks a mere mortal as he walks onstage to sit at the grand piano. When he starts to play the Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1, he is transformed into something else entirely. Instantly we are mesmerized by the famous opening measures; later we become breathless at his complete mastery of the music’s tenderness and virtuosity. His physicality is captivating. He bends over the piano with fierce intent, only to look up and away in peaceful repose as the piece shifts. His fingers release the notes as light and fast as fireflies in peals of unbelievable music. When it ends, we are standing on our feet, our hands getting weary from the appreciation.

If we were getting tired, then the energy of the lobby soon revives us. Various morsels are offered on silver trays, hats and bobbles are quickly grabbed and put on in festive delight, and glasses of Champagne float about in steady hands. We fill the balconies and hang from stairways to listen to Belle Amour croon out jazz. And the Orchestra musicians mingle all night shaking hands, posing for pictures, graciously receiving adoration from their fans.

Belle Amour performing in the lobby.

We wait together for midnight, and as the New Year arrives, hundreds of gold streamers slink down on us from high above. And for a lovely pause, no matter what kind of year we might have had, we are open and joyful, completely in the moment of what is possible.

A clean slate granted to all.

Mandy Meisner, center, with first-time concertgoer Tracy David at right.

Hope Never Sounded So Good

On October 7th, guest blogger Mandy Meisner went to the “Send Me Hope” concert conducted by Roderick Cox. How was this concert different than the usual fare? Read on to find out.

Community. It’s a word I use often. It’s a rally cry and the great unifier among diversity. And community is also overwhelming challenge and profound heartache. It is all these things simultaneously, and we are responsible for shaping it into something good, while shedding light into the dark corners to see what is there.

Last month’s “Send Me Hope” concert is an intriguing proposition, incorporating cultural awareness, mixed art forms and difficult history. Throw in the venue of Orchestra Hall, a place that traditionally hosts the music of Mozart and Bach, and this unusual offering holds great appeal. Its origins extend back a year ago with a collaborative “Spirit of the Season” concert in north Minneapolis at Shiloh Temple International Ministries. Associate Conductor Roderick Cox led their church choir in a joint performance of the Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with the Minnesota Orchestra, and the room-shaking experience demanded an encore.

From the very beginning of the “Send Me Hope” evening, the energy is palpable. Men and women crowd the lobby, a large number of them African American. Young children look crisp in their finest as they are pulled excitedly by their parents, and laughter bounces off in deep throaty cannons.

I take my seat and make acquaintance with the people around me; some have never been to Orchestra Hall before. They are beaming. When Roderick Cox enters the stage, you can feel the collective adore from the audience and performers alike. He says a few words that are heartfelt and welcoming, making the large space feel intimate. As he conducts the opening Ballade in A minor by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, I see the crimson lining of his jacket peek out in the wake of his passionate gestures.

The kids of the Shiloh Temple Drummer Boys and MacPhail Northside Youth Orchestra line on stage, as still as mice. Their faces are arranged in serious expressions, and one arcs his head to see the full scope of their fans, his eyes wide. When the drumming starts, they play their music with deep focus, their small arms piston in furious motion, producing incredible syncopation.

Nygel Witherspoon, the young cellist for the Dvořák Concerto, sits calmly on stage waiting for his entrance under a cloud of tight curls. He plays with confidence and agility, as undisturbed as a pool of still water. There is a tenderness to his sound. It is sweet and refreshing, everything that youth should be.

The next piece is the gospel choir. I am not familiar with gospel music, having instead the experience of Catholic mass, a more restrictive form of worship often held under giant panes of stained glass and the white curls of incense. Here We Are is introduced as a commemorative work by Dr. Henry Panion III, giving remembrance to the four little girls killed in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963. This will be followed by its partner, Send Me Hope, about reflecting, honoring and moving forward.

Here We Are is powerful music. As voices shout out “where are the girls?!” I feel the tragedy press against me. But this piece does not dwell in the anguish, it quickly moves to we are here—in a better place, watching over you, the love remains. The largeness of this is deeply moving.

As the vocals continue, the pure joy and talent and vitality of the choir rushes over us in waves. We don’t wait for the end of the concert to give a standing ovation, we are on our feet after nearly every piece, whooping and clapping, laughing and smiling, the tide of energy flowing back to the performers. We all go wild during More Abundantly.

Taiyon J. Coleman’s last spoken word of the night enchants and activates us. Her clear voice fills the hall, its deep timbre as solid and strong as oak. Her message is clear: that we have power to influence in small and meaningful ways, no matter how dark. Her words seep into us, make us somber in their truth and importance.

The concert closes the night with Total Praise, a simple melody with a simple message, sung with heartfelt devotion and abandonment by this beautiful Minneapolis gospel choir. “You are the source of my strength. You are the strength of my life. I lift my hands in total praise to you.”      

Hope never sounded so good.

Dissection: Observing a Rehearsal at Orchestra Hall

Earlier this month, we invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to observe a Minnesota Orchestra rehearsal led by Associate Conductor Roderick Cox. What happens to get the music ready for an audience? Read on to find out.

When I write, I can spend ridiculous amounts of time laboring over decisions like using an and or a the. I can be writing during any hour of the day or night, usually dressed in leggings and a sweater, with a cup of coffee keeping me company, or sometimes a glass of wine. I may have a story I want to tell, but the words will have their fun with me first; coming out in poor sequence, having the emotional attraction of a rock, or eluding me altogether. Writing requires solitude. There is no one to collaborate with until after you finish the work. All this can be unnerving, frustrating and hard. But this is the process I accept and embrace—every time—simply for the chance to create, out of nothing.

But what is the process like for the Minnesota Orchestra? I share my extraordinary Wednesday morning at Orchestra Hall.

I’ve never seen Roderick in person but I feel as many Minnesotans do—I am completely smitten with him. I’ve been following the well-earned media coverage he’s been receiving lately and am ecstatic to see him and the Orchestra in this intimate setting.

I am brought up to perch on an upper balcony where I gaze at Minnesota Orchestra musicians as they enter a fully-lit stage, their usual finery replaced with plaid shirts and sweater vests, sneakers and yoga pants, and the occasional hoodie. Roderick’s tall frame walks to the podium in long, smooth strides. He looks comfortable in jeans and a button up, and exudes an easy air.

When Roderick starts with the third movement of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances, I am mesmerized by the way his arms sway and arc as if performing in a ballet. This dance-like quality colors his whole body as the music becomes more complicated; the nod of head, the slight bounce of heel, and the quick urgent slices through air—they all have a definitive grace that is captivating to watch. When I see his face, it opens up like a bloom.

In the throes of the music, the sound stops. The abruptness is shocking. Verbal direction is given with care and gentleness. Musicians listen quietly and pick up pencils to scribble their notes. Their communication is good. They talk with ease back and forth, and the conductor doesn’t hesitate to go over anything that is requested. Roderick has a technical focus; dynamics and articulation are clarified with clear language, and he does not use poetic analogy or frivolous words. He rarely comments on the tempo. Did he communicate tempo in an earlier rehearsal? Or settle it with the mere motion of his baton? It will remain a mystery for a layman like me.

They work together on just this one piece for hours, dissecting the music, putting it back together. Roderick appears more conjurer than conductor, pulling and stretching the music from musician and instrument, from the composers themselves, long silenced from human life. I try and experience it as a professional would, with intellect and discrimination, but all I experience is the sheer beauty of the music. It overwhelms me in the empty Hall.

When rehearsal ends, the Orchestra members again become mere mortals. Cell phones and lunch are waiting, next appointments and other projects beckon. Bits of conversation and laughter rise up as they exit stage left, through the side door and back to their regular lives. I stay among the charcoal velvet chairs, which gape open in their vacancy. I try and absorb this moment, the privilege of witnessing world-class musicians in plaid shirts and sweater vests, sneakers and yoga pants, work through a process of that is accepted and embraced—by the entire Minnesota Orchestra—simply for the chance to create, out of nothing.

Fan Club

Our guest blogger Mandy Meisner has generously shared her thoughts on being inspired to become a Minnesota Orchestra subscriber for the first time.

I have a confession to make. For many months, I’ve gushed to friends and family about how electrifying it is to hear the Minnesota Orchestra live, my eyes wide with fervor. I’ve gone on and on about what a big fan I am and why their music is important. I’ve written about performances and musicians with gusto, so that you too might experience the Orchestra at home, while sipping your morning coffee.

I’ve been lucky to listen to the Orchestra’s musicians, write about them, and even meet some of them. But, for all the love I’ve been shown, I wonder whether I’m being a true fan, or merely a fair-weather one. I see various posts on social media about upcoming events, think that sounds great! and click the “like” button—but rarely click the “buy” button.

I’m not exactly sure why I’ve been so negligent. Partly because I believe the Orchestra, as a thriving part of our arts community, surely doesn’t really need me to be in their seats—a suburban woman who is not particularly well-versed in classical music, nor has deep pockets. They must be looking for classical music buffs, and potential large donors. And partly because I have fallen into the same dangerous mindset of five years ago; they will always be around as they have always been, I can go later.

My time at Orchestra Hall has taught me none of these reasons are good ones to stay away. All the musicians I’ve had the privilege to interview and shake hands with have expressed their desire and gratitude for people—all people—to be in the seats. Many of them continue to mingle in the lobby, giving surprised attendees a chance moment of connection, which will inevitably turn into an exciting tidbit at work come Monday morning.

I’ve been thinking about all this. And I’ve made a decision. I am now able to show my love for the Orchestra not just by talking about them, but also by becoming a season ticket holder for the first time. And I couldn’t have picked a better time! The 2017-18 season starts with one of my all-time-makes-me-swoon favorites, a piece wrought with beauty and nostalgia, Stravinsky’s Firebird.

I don’t have the VIP season package, and I don’t have to. Because being a true fan of the Minnesota Orchestra doesn’t require sitting in an elite section of the Hall, or having a degree in music, or the ability to give generous sums of money.

To be a true fan of the Minnesota Orchestra means only that you show up.

Create your own series and enjoy savings of up to 15%! Mix and match concerts as well as price and seating sections.

A Night on the Silk Road: A journey worth taking

Earlier this summer, our guest blogger Mandy Meisner attended the Minnesota Orchestra’s 2017 Symphony Ball, titled “A Night on the Silk Road.” Six weeks later, we’ve invited her to write about that evening of music, festivities and camaraderie—and reflect on what she calls “a respite from my usual route.”

We all choose a road to travel. Some of us are trailblazers, unafraid and gutsy, our paths laid with sheer grit, scorched and raw behind us. Others choose a way whose course is smooth and broad and clear, where great comfort will be offered in the surety of where it leads. For most of us, the journey will be somewhere in between. We find straggly trails among the bramble and meander about, hoping to find a direction that might lead us out of the wild.

On June 24, I was able to take a detour, and spend “A Night on the Silk Road” with the Minnesota Orchestra. Although Symphony Ball has been going on for 60 years, this was my first time and I went as a Partier, joining all of the after-dinner festivities. I did not know what to expect. I only knew that when I imagined the Silk Road, I imagined exotic lands and people. I thought of long, dusty stretches of earth that bore countless travelers, silent and weary under the sun. But at day’s end when the stars pricked through the black sky, perhaps these silent and weary travelers might gather around their fires to sing and dance, laugh and talk, their beautiful silk fabrics and unusual wares tucked safely away, smelling of sandalwood and jasmine.

My fellow Partiers and I waited in an alluring Orchestra Hall for other Ball attendees to arrive from the dinner and auction. Brightly-dressed performers moved in graceful arcs and flourishes off to my side. Vibrant flags stamped with the event logo hung in stately swags, and a giant elephant puppet towered amicably over guests as they posed for pictures and exalted their amusement. The diners came through the skyway doors in a rush of energy to quickly disperse throughout the Hall. Rosy-cheeked and wonderfully garbed, the women gathered in small enclaves, their diamonds and sequins and smiles all flashing with the same brilliance.

Patrons enjoying Symphony Ball in Orchestra Hall’s Roberta Mann Grand Foyer. Photo by Courtney Perry.

Mesmerized by these glamorous strangers, I walked among them, catching bits of conversation as the stream flowed by, and we entered the auditorium. We choose our own seats and sat under the weight of a celebratory haze, eager for the music. A giant, two-manned tiger puppet lumbered across the stage and we clapped with childish delight.  

And then the music began. The Silk Road Symphonic Fantasy is a curated medley, created especially for this year’s Symphony Ball, of works by various composers, meant to take listeners on a musical journey. The Orchestra did not disappoint. Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade was full of longing, haunting and painful with sparks of dazzling release, and a glimpse of the everyman, plodding through life in contentment. Saint-Saëns’ Sampson and Delilah was all that ill-fated lovers should be; lush and volatile, sensual and raw, the conflict and passion of the music hung on us like blankets of wet velvet. Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger cello solo guts me completely. The journey continued, each piece emotionally full and stunning, the finale a rightful conclusion of triumphant victory, hard-won after a long, arduous journey.

The Orchestra takes the stage at Symphony Ball. Photo by Playatta.

Next was singer-writer-rapper Dessa, who joined the Orchestra to perform two of her original songs. Although I had never heard Dessa live, I’ve listened to her in interviews on MPR and have appreciated her ability to be true to herself and her creativity. This is perhaps the most challenging once you have success; yet she remains faithful to herself and her art form.  Her vocals that night are as inky as the midnight blue of her dress and the black sheen of her hair. Her music has gravity; it anchors us in the vastness.

When Dessa comes out again to perform later, she has changed into an even deeper-hued dress, shorter and simpler in cut. Without the Milky Way of the Orchestra, her band looks minuscule, stark on stage. We are all standing, Dessa comes to perch on a seat, the smallness now feeling like intimacy. Bell Toll starts with a few lone lines of music, strange and entrancing, then fills the space with primal beats and full accompaniment that make us sway into a blurry mass, her voice dripping like raw honey.

Dessa, second from left, and her band joined the Orchestra. Photo by Courtney Perry.

Afterward, though it is late, we all stay to mingle in our scarlet gowns and pearly smiles. We are tired and spent, dazed and overflowing. I am able to meet many new people—musicians and committee members, sponsors and volunteers. Their roles are different and equally crucial in making the event a success, and I can feel the pride and camaraderie around the orchestra as I chat with them. I have a brief and lovely encounter with Dessa, who is gracious to me, and to all the people waiting to meet her.

Dessa, center, with Mandy Meisner at right.

The night wanes and we are reluctant to go back to the road we normally tread; we are all still enjoying the detour. Eventually, we start to leave in slow procession, our arms were laden with prizes, our minds drunk from the music and the people and the atmosphere itself. I know I will return and hope to meet other newcomers next year. I’m convinced anyone would love it as much I have.

On my way out, the path brings me to people I haven’t seen for years and least expect to see. Such happenstance surprises me, and then I laugh at my surprise. For if there is one thing I felt at the Ball thanks to the tremendous effort and talents of others, it was that anything—absolutely anything—can happen during a night on the Silk Road.  

And that sometimes a detour is just the thing we need, to give us perseverance to stay the course.

A Sunday Kind of Love

Last month we invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to interview Principal Flute Adam Kuenzel in advance of his performance of a Bach Flute Partita at the January 22 Chamber Music in the Target Atrium concert. We’re delighted that Mandy has written us this follow-up reflection on the performance. 

Of all the days of the week, Sunday remains one of my favorite.

Untethered by the expectations of a Monday, the drudgery of a Wednesday, or the excitement of a Friday, it delivers the stillness and comfort that only a cup of coffee and the crinkling turn of the newspaper can offer. These lazy mornings will often seep into the rest of the day, washing away the week so I can recharge and meet the expectant Monday once again. 

On Sunday, January 22, I went to a Minnesota Orchestra chamber music concert. Rather than taking designated seats in the large auditorium, we file in first-come, first-served to the Target Atrium—the “Glass Box” right off the main lobby. We come in our cozy sweaters and heavy tights, sports coats and brown loafers, and watch a subdued city go about its business in the grey afternoon, unperturbed by us on the other side of the pane. 

The concert starts out as chamber music on a Sunday afternoon should—with a leisurely chat. Gone are the imposing icons atop a grand stage; instead they are regular people sharing juicy tidbits about composers and exotic locals and the evolution of instruments. The music itself now feels familiar, like a forgotten story you suddenly remembered rather than the novel that caused such intimidation you dare not open it. 

All four members of the flute section take turns playing Bach sonatas and a partita. The Bach sonatas open with the politeness of a well-structured vintage dress. This restrained introduction is brushed away to reveal the scars beneath with the hand of a minor key.  The combination of flute, cello and harpsichord feels dear. Their distinct voices weave in and out and over one another with elegant subtlety and explicit purpose.

When Adam Kuenzel plays the Partita in A minor on a wooden flute, I am fearful for him. He stands alone before us all. The wood lends a softer sound, so we lean in to hear him speak in long lush phrases through brilliant and seemingly impossible arcs of technique and nuance. The Sarabande sounds like fog in the marshes, blurry and strange, enticing you to explore with a haunting promise. We sit in awe at his moxie and skill. I am so close that I can see the music coming through the slightest bobs and sways, leaving his patterns in the air. 

The concert ends with the Mendelssohn String Quintet No. 2. I expect to be delighted, and I am. After the lone flute, the quintet’s big sound is startling. The Adagio fills the space with silken ribbons, as wide as your arms can stretch, where they float and flutter to drape from the ceiling and glass walls. I can see the music in sweeps of pale blues and strong violets, later turning into reds and oranges in the last movement. The music adorns us all as the grey sky turns black outside. 

When it ends, we clap and smile, sigh and chatter, as we put on our coats to meet the winter night. But we can still feel the music in our bones. It seeps into us, washing away the week so we can recharge and meet the expectant Monday once again. 

It was everything a Sunday should be.

The Magic Flute: an interview with Adam Kuenzel

This month we’ve invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to interview the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal flute, Adam Kuenzel, in advance of the flute section’s performance at the January 22 Chamber Music in the Target Atrium concert. As Mandy notes in her introduction, a lifetime of music can often have the simplest of starts.

We Minnesotans are hearty folk who take our traditions seriously. Not the bitter winds, nor the darkness of winter nights can stop us from throwing on our jackets and crunching our way across an icy parking lot to partake in one of the most iconic American rites of passage for young musicians.

The first concert.

As parents, we have listened to months of squeaks and squawks, shrills and bangs wafting through our homes from what we suppose are bona fide instruments, but can’t be sure. First came the piece of paper, crinkled from excited little hands, asking to play an instrument. Later, we see our children red-faced and wide-eyed, delicate eyebrows stitched to the middle of their foreheads begging us to watch while they squeak and squawk, shrill and bang out their first notes with great pride and expectation.

As supporters of our young musicians, we will huddle together in cramped auditoriums and gyms, waving to our kids as they walk out carrying their instruments with the stoic glory of Trojan soldiers. Though this first performance might leave us grimacing through our smiles, somewhere between Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and Let’s Go Band we may have a brief fantastical moment and think: this concert could be their first step to a life of music. Suddenly, we see our children on-stage in sophisticated composure, playing with a full ensemble in honeyed song, their musical aspirations attained.

And for many, many fledging musicians, this will be true. That a lifetime of music started out simply—in a cramped auditorium or gym squeaking and squawking, shrilling and banging their first notes for a crowd who listened with great pride and expectation.

What starts out as a childish delight and curiosity will end—for the chosen few—in a lifetime of pursuing music with a world class orchestra. It is far too easy to see these bookends as finite. The struggling beginner cannot comprehend the mastery of an instrument. It’s tough to visualize the professional on stage ever having struggled for his or her skill. But it is this persistent in-between that is the magic that turns years of study, auditions, and lots of failure from a novice into a professional.

I recently interviewed Adam Kuenzel, the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal flute, to talk about his background, tips for young musicians, a preview of his performance at a Chamber Music in the Target Atrium concert on January 22, and what keeps the music magical for him.

Q. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview! Let’s start with the beginning: how old were you when you started playing the flute, and what was it that intrigued you about this instrument?

A: I was about nine years old when I started on the flute. My recollection is that I first heard it at a school assembly. I was fascinated by the way it looked.

Q. Did your family have much of a musical background?

A. No one else in my family played an instrument. Unless you include my dad who had played trombone in high school and in a service band on Okinawa. A funny “family” coincidence is that lots of people thought I was related to Eric Kunzel, the conductor of the Cincinnati Pops.

Q. Like many people, probably, I view flute as stereotypically more of a feminine instrument than a masculine one. In my elementary and high school years everywhere I looked it was only girls that played the flute. Did you find it alienating in your youth to be a male flutist?

A. Isn't it strange? Yep. I play a girls' instrument, oh well. Luckily, I'd been taking private lessons for three years before I attended a school with a band program. By then I was pretty good and wasn't affected much by the fact that hardly any boys played flute.

Q. It’s cold and flu season. As a flutist, when your respiratory system isn’t working, your playing suffers. I know that was one of my biggest fears before a performance: coming down with a cold/cough. Any tricks you do to prevent this? Or do you just pray to the Performance Gods?

A. This past summer I played a recital with a sore throat and chest congestion. My main concern was that I might have a coughing fit after inhaling too rapidly. The solution was simply to take a dose of cough suppressant and then explain to the audience beforehand that I had to perform this particular concert seated because the medication was making me kind of drowsy and dizzy. The adrenaline that kicks in during a solo performance offsets some of the effects of respiratory illness, too.

Q. As an audience member, I feel moved every time I hear the Minnesota Orchestra perform. Is it challenging to feel inspired as a performer? What keeps music “fresh” for you?

A. It is a challenge to feel inspired sometimes. But being a professional requires one to deliver a quality of performance that inspires the listener regardless of other concerns or distractions that vie for my attention. Recently, I realized how inspiring it is for me to mingle with the audience in the lobby beforehand. As an orchestra we intuitively seized on this strategy during the lockout which ended three years ago. My colleagues and I still regularly "meet and greet" our audience before or after a concert. Ar first, it was out of a sense of duty and it took a while before I felt comfortable introducing myself to our audience members. But there is a palpable sense of anticipation and excitement among them that I get to share. That’s what helps get me "psyched up" for a performance.

Q. What is the most challenging part about the Bach A-minor Partita that you’re playing on the January 22 chamber music concert? What is the most loved?

A. Overall, the main challenge is to make a convincing statement playing only a single line of music. In particular the first movement or dance, I should say, is a real puzzle. Not a single rest in the entire piece! Unless you count the 16th rest at the beginning. Ha-ha! Very funny Herr Bach. I'm working with the concept that this was some sort of riddle on his part. Obviously a wind player needs to breathe. But how to pace those quick breaths and keep the flow of the line intact is the answer. (Click here for January 22 tickets and details.)

Q. Being a professional musician is highly competitive. What advice would you give young musicians who have their heart set to play in an orchestra someday?

A. Seek out any opportunity you can and see how you stack up against other players. Start jumping through the hoops early. Success doesn't come suddenly but by a persistent effort. I don't know how many contests, summer festivals, master classes, etc., I'd taken before I felt ready to compete for a paid position (a lot). And then, of course, all of the auditions I didn't win could fill an entire page. I like a quote from Tour de France winner, Greg LeMond. When asked what it was like to be a rising star in the professional cycling world he said, "It doesn't get easier, you just go faster.” Be idealistic but also realistic at the same time.

Q. What do you enjoy doing that is not musical?

A. I enjoy being active outdoors. Cross-country skiing, cycling, running, swimming, etc. I have a dog, Leo, who is very type A and requires lots of attention.

Some Enchanted Evening

Last month we invited guest blogger Mandy Meisner to interview Principal Harp Kathy Kienzle in advance of her performance of Ginastera’s Harp Concerto—and we’re thrilled that Mandy has now written us this follow-up reflection on the October 1 performance of music by Bach, Ginastera and Paulus.

I am convinced that magic exists in the world. The kind that, as children, once washed our lives in wonder and possibility every day. It’s the same magic that, as we grew older, became harder and harder to find, until most of us stopped believing in it altogether. But in our hectic, digital, selfie-crazed time, in between the emails and the texts, the deadlines and the meetings, we still long for its return.

On the beautiful evening of Saturday, October 1, I filed into Orchestra Hall with a throng of the casual and refined. People speckle the lobby in an eclectic mix of diamond studs glinting under elegant hair, sturdy skirts and practical sweaters, and tasseled shoes peeking out of the slacks of silver haired gentlemen. Inside the auditorium chairs stand in obedient rows, their plush charcoal grey seats cushioning us like pearls in a fine jewelry box.

A live musical performance is a fleeting and unique experience. Unlike a recording, in which the phrases and lines can be heard over and over again in exact duplication, a live performance is never the same thing twice. Indeed, there is a huge difference between the same notes being played and the same music being created—which only a true artist can articulate with nuanced beauty and skill.

When the Minnesota Orchestra starts to play the First Brandenburg Concerto, though a smaller ensemble, the hall is filled with sound. At once the musicians are transformed. They sat down as mere people and become something else entirely, something you feel privileged to behold. Oboe and violin cry out to one another, pulling at us somewhere deep, and we become helpless to do anything but sigh and ache from it.

Stagehands scamper to re-set for the Ginastera Harp Concerto. I have never heard a harp concerto live before, and though I know a bit about the piece from last month’s interview with Kathy Kienzle, I am curious to hear the music and this instrument. I am surprised to see it colorfully strung in red, white and blue, evoking a slightly patriotic appearance. It is taller than an average man, its impressive girth counterintuitive to its delicate voice. The soloist, Kathy Kienzle, walks out. She is polished and calm, her garnet dress flows silently behind and I see flashes now and again of her glasses. She sits down and begins.

What can I write about astonishment? That it starts as crisp and tart as a green apple, then gives way into something mysterious—lush and rounded and dark. Her playing is hypnotic, swaying from the silken delicacy of a new lover, to the confident strength of a favorite one. During the cadenza my ears cannot keep up with the flurry of notes, they are like a thousand monarch butterflies—uncontainable and magnificent in their abundance. The finale is a steady heartbeat of an otherworldly march—intriguing and exotic—finishing in an unexpected last explosion followed by an end that leaves me stunned and grasping in the abrupt silence.

I can feel the anticipation for the last component of the night. The distinguished looking couple next to me are singers, associates of the late composer, and their faces blur into affection as they talk about what comes next. And what comes next is Stephan Paulus’ Mass for a Sacred Place. Instantly I feel the commanding merge of voice and instrument. The music becomes an omnipresent force. I don’t need to look to know that it seeps into every person, in every soul—a wordless understanding through a shared moment in time, sweeping us away to some place extraordinary.

I wonder how his family and friends must feel, to see their loved one resurrected in all the ways that count. To have his heart and mind—the best and most intimate parts of himself—alive and well again. And I think this must be the true meaning of legacy.

After the piece is done, after the encore is finished that leaves you heartbroken from sheer beauty, I look around to see the entire night reflecting back to me from this sliver of humanity, and change my mind. This isn’t the meaning of legacy.

It is magic.

Kathy Kienzle and Mandy Meisner

POSTSCRIPT: During intermission I am allowed to go backstage to meet Kathy Kienzle. I walk past musicians who are regular people again, their abilities hidden behind cups of hot coffee and the electric light of cell phones. I find myself a bit tongue-tied meeting Kathy after listening to such a powerful performance. She is kind and gracious, still glowing from the stage. We both gush about the music, how unusual it is, how captivating. She talks about the stamina required for the piece, her preparations and the intricate challenges (the pedal action alone was very involved). But what I find most interesting is when she shows me her hands, palms up, which are surprisingly smooth. She explains if the calluses get too thick, it affects the sound of the strings, producing a “hard” sound. Who knew?

Wallflower: a Q&A with Kathy Kienzle

Photo: Stagehand Don Hughes captured this image of Kathy's harp in the airport x-ray machine at Glasgow, Scotland during our recent European Tour.

This month we’ve invited guest blogger and Minnesota Orchestra fan Mandy Meisner to interview Principal Harp Kathy Kienzle in advance of her upcoming solo on Sept. 29-Oct. 1. As Mandy notes: “It’s always the quiet ones that can surprise us the most. And the harp is one of them.”

Some instruments have all the luck. Made to be the Life of the Party, they dazzle us over and over again. Take the trumpet, for example. Elegant in design, it is simply arranged in a slender metallic loop with a bloom at its end, sporting three measly keys that disguise a five octave range. And the sound! Its confident, clear explosions transport you to fields of glory and rooms of royal ceremony. Or, it can lull you in the calm, raspy threads of jazz that hang in the air like smoke. The trumpet conjures up a personality that is charismatic and powerful. Gutsy and triumphant.

Then, there are other kinds of instruments. The kind that are so ingrained in our cultural psyche, we easily forget their significance. One in particular blends in the background, ever present and quiet—as Wallflowers tend to be. Rather than being the Life of the Party, it demonstrates a subtle, hypnotic ability, requiring remarkable skill and strength of the player. Hearing it crowds our heads with all things feminine, evoking images of slender outstretched arms, of upturned demure faces. Its sound brings us inside the chambers of gilded chairs and velvet benches, where poetry is read to the genteel and elite. Thanks to consistent type casting over the years, it is doomed to be played atop generic white clouds, eternally strummed by cherubim and seraphim, its true splendor suffocated by our ignorant, sweet notions. Forever delicate and polite.

This instrument is the harp.

We all come to accept and understand a convenient definition of ourselves and of others. It’s how our brains work to parcel out the multitude of different kinds of people and ideas in the world. Yet we also—at least sometimes—long to break the mold, to redefine our labels, to shock and defy with creative expression. Composers, with their musician partners, have been doing just that since the dawn of man. The harp is among the oldest instruments on record and therefore, to the public, may have the most constraining molds to rebel against.

So what, then, is the harp all about? Which music can properly showcase its versatility? And who are the people who play it? In an attempt to break some of our deep seated (and misguided) ideas about the harp, I interviewed the Minnesota Orchestra’s principal harpist, Kathy Kienzle, to help set us straight.

Wallflowers can often persuade us to hear a different tune, if we only care to listen. 

Thank you so much for this interview! I’ll confess, I don’t know much about the harp and probably represent a lot of other people out there in my unfamiliarity. And it’s not an instrument played as much as, say, the violin or cello. What was it about the harp that made you want to study it? What first impressions did you have of the harp?

Kienzle: I first saw and heard the harp played when I was 6 and I was fascinated both by the sound and the way it looked. My (future) harp teacher played at our church every Christmas and Easter. I was extremely lucky that even though I grew up in a pretty small town, there was a wonderful harp teacher who had had lessons in New York and Paris with some of the finest harp teachers in the world. I studied with her for 11 years before I went to college.

I’ve listened to a few harp concertos now (beyond just Mozart’s for flute and harp…) to get a better sense of the instrument. As a layman, I perceive that the variety of colors of the music are coming from the orchestra, not the harp. The harp (to me) has a very consistent sound: a pure, clear quality that even when playing dissonant chords still rings so true. Do you ever wish you could express something really dark and “un-pretty” on the harp? Is there a (dark) harp piece out there that is really striking?

Kienzle: People often say that the harp is very soothing and calming to listen to. It also has a reputation of sounding “pretty” (it’s often used in commercials for that purpose) and for being a very feminine instrument. This drives me crazy! It’s very difficult to move, and also takes a lot of strength to play. So yes, I like the idea of showing listeners that the harp can express something dark and dissonant, or at least something different than “pretty.” The Ginastera Harp Concerto I’m playing with the Minnesota Orchestra at the end of September is one of those pieces. It is dissonant, but I wouldn’t say it is dark. It shows off the harp in a very rhythmic, technical, exciting way. And there are many pieces written for the harp in the 20th and 21st centuries that are dark, dissonant, and even contain ugly sounds. Composers are now exploring the outer limits of the instrument.

What are the most difficult and the most fun aspects of performing the Ginastera Concerto?

Kienzle: Probably the technical aspect is the hardest part of this piece, and the scariest. This includes very complicated pedaling. My feet are almost as busy as my fingers. What’s most fun about performing this, is that the piece shows off the harp in a very different way. It has lyrical moments, but is also very rhythmic and exciting.

OK, I’m going to ask a question you probably get really, really tired of being asked: How much of a hassle is it to transport a harp? How much does it weigh? Does it require a special vehicle or special attachment?

Kienzle: Concert grand harps weigh between 81 to 92 pounds. Yes, it’s a hassle to move it. It’s very top heavy, so it’s extremely awkward, especially if the harpist is short. There are now lots of vehicles that will hold a harp. A lot of us have mini-vans, so we can get a lot in the car with the harp, but a harp will actually fit in a Prius!

I grew up playing the flute. Right or wrong, I view the flute as more of a feminine instrument than a masculine one. I have the same bias for the harp. In elementary and high school years everywhere I looked it was only girls who played the flute. But then you get to the college and professional level, and the top positions are absolutely dominated by men. Is there a similar arc for the harp?

Kienzle: Yes, many more girls are attracted to the harp than boys. I have had maybe 4 male students out of 100 (total) over all my years of teaching. I think it may be getting a bit better now. At the college level it’s about the same, but at the professional level it is more equal (men do not dominate.) Of the 10 major U.S. symphonies right now only one has a male harpist. In Europe it is a bit different, because up until a few years ago women were not allowed in some symphony orchestras, especially in Germany and Austria. This has now changed.

Is there a challenge to get the next generation of harpists interested to study?

Kienzle: Not at all. There are many, many students studying harp now. I teach Suzuki harp, so I have students as young as 5. I just had a student graduate high school who started with me when he was 5 years old. I will have 5 students at the U of Minnesota this fall.

Musicians are susceptible to specific kinds of injury. What is a harpist susceptible to, and what do you do to prevent injury?

Kienzle: Harpists are susceptible to tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, etc., etc., etc. It’s a very awkward instrument to play. When I was younger I didn’t think or worry much about this. Now I have learned I have to really pace myself. I can’t practice for hours and hours like I used to. Warm-ups and specific stretches are extremely important. I also see a chiropractor regularly and sometimes see a massage therapist and physical therapist.

People can readily see the harp is a unique instrument. What is unique about it that is not so readily noticeable or observable?

Kienzle: Most people don’t know about the 7 pedals, one for every note of the scale, and that we get all our sharps and flats by changing the pedals. Also a harp does not get better with age, as bowed string instruments do. The pressure of the strings on the wood is so great, that eventually they pull apart or crack, and have to be rebuilt.

You’ve been with the Minnesota Orchestra since 1993. Have you seen an evolution in the MO audience over the years? Why do you think that is?

Kienzle: The biggest change in the audience is how they were before the lockout compared to how they are now. I would say that also is true about how the musicians relate to the audience. During the lockout, when the community did not have our concerts to attend, except the monthly ones we produced ourselves, the audiences were starved for orchestral music. Now they seem to appreciate us much more than before, because they realize how much they missed us.

Likewise, on the musicians’ side, it is easy to get used to going to work, doing our jobs, and going home, without even acknowledging how important our audience is to us. That has totally changed too. During the lockout we started going out into the lobby before and after concerts and chatting with the audience. This has continued after the lockout. We now know how much the audience means to us. In the industry the edge of the stage is called the “fourth wall” and we are much more determined to break through that and make connections with our audience.

Want to hear for yourself what the harp can really do? Kathy Kienzle will be playing the colorful Ginastera Harp Concerto on Thursday, September 29 (11am), Friday, September 30 (8pm), and Saturday, October 1 (8pm) at Orchestra Hall. Details & tickets »